The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Confidence. Separated By Water And Definition.
January 29, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the biggest differences between Brits and American’s is confidence.

Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s American’s ability to overtly express their confidence without any sense of irony.

I remember the first time I worked in the US and being shocked when I heard someone say, “I’m really good at my job”.

Now the fact is, they were … but that still didn’t change the fact I found it alien to hear someone talk in those terms.

Part of that is, as I said, I’m British.

Those sort of statements are just not said.

Not just because we are brought up to believe you prove it rather than say it, but to ‘big yourself up’ is seen as a sign of ego, not confidence.

That said, years later, I found myself making a similar statement about my abilities as a planner to a client.

On one hand I was surprised to hear myself say it … on the other, I felt a sense of liberation that I had never had before.

It might be wrong to say it, but it felt good.

It was like I was drawing a line in the sand.

Letting the other party know I won’t tolerate any bullshit so be careful how they go ahead.

And it worked.

You’d think with that, I’d of said it again, but I haven’t.

Part of this is because there’s been few times where it was even called for, but the other part is that I still feel it’s a massive statement of ego.

And then I watched this.

Yes, it’s Brian Clough making his now infamous interview after being fired by Leeds United after just 44 days in management.

It was this event that led him to becoming manager of Nottingham Forest where he went on to change the history of the club – and my childhood – forever, but that’s not the point of this post, the point is what he says between 18 minutes 50 seconds and 19 minutes 50 seconds.

It may be worth going back to watch those 60 seconds.

For me, the bit that is the most powerful is when he say’s to Don Revie – the incredibly successful manager he replaced at Leeds – “I wanted to do that and I wanted to do it better than you”.

OK, so it’s not exactly the same as saying “I’m really good at my job” because lets face it, he’s not talking about his abilities but his hopes, but still … to say this on television having just been fired from his job is a massive statement of self belief.

But what I love the most is that he said he wanted to win ‘better’ rather than ‘more’.

That for him success, wasn’t purely about quantity, but quality.

In essence, he’s saying his standards are even higher than the person before him … the person who won so much with pretty much the same team.

That’s ballsy in itself, but to say it to the face of the previous manager is potentially suicidal.

Now the fact he had achieved incredible success prior to Leeds with Derby County meant he couldn’t simply be labelled an egomaniac … and the fact he then went on to achieve even greater success with my beloved Nottingham Forest meant he proved to be someone truly special in Football Management … but as this sort of behaviour is very ‘un-British’ – especially back in the 1970’s – I wonder if his approach acted as some sort of self-inspiration.

That the fear of public ridicule drove him further rather than held him back?

That being outspoken was his insurance policy of giving it his best shot.

On face value this is quite an American way to behave but I think there’s a difference.

You see in America, I feel the focus is not just about the end result of your ambitions but acting ambitious.

It’s almost as if being humble means you’re seen as lacking the drive to succeed so people don’t believe in you.

Of course that’s not really true, but it just comes across that way. At least to me.

But in the UK, it’s different.

If you say something, you’re judged by it.

It’s why we are deeply skeptical of people who talk a big game but haven’t yet achieved stuff. We tend to view those people as loud-mouthed wankers rather than people we can believe in … and yet Clough was adored.

Sure, some regarded him as a walking egomaniac, but generally he was loved by the British public.

Again, part of that was because he had won stuff, so he could back up his claims … the other was that he tended to talk in terms of ‘hopes’ rather than ‘ambitions’ which meant it was more about what he’d like to happen rather than stating what will happen [a subtle, but important difference] and finally it was because he was slightly eccentric [See below *] so he could defuse situations as quickly as he could ignite them.

But, in my opinion, the secret to his success is that his outspokenness wasn’t to impress or shock others, but to push himself to succeed.

By knowing the skepticism the British have for big talkers, he knew that once his words left his gob, he was going to be judged and that gave him the fire he needed to push harder and go further.

Not just to win, but to win right … which in my opinion was to ‘succeed in a way that earned his team the respect from the opposition and their fans’.

In a World where winning is judged by speed, I love that he – and years later, the technical director of the Belgium football team – saw the value in craft.

There’s a lot we can learn from Clough, of which expressing your hopes – especially if you’re British – is one of them.
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* When Brian Clough bought Trevor Francis – the first 1 million pound footballer in England – he turned up to the press conference holding his badminton racquet, claiming he had just come from a game.

It’s said the reason he did this was that he didn’t want his new signing to feel extra pressure to live up to his price tag by the press so he ensured their focus would be drawn towards the eccentricity of his actions.

If you like that story, then you have to watch the documentary ‘I Believe In Miracles’.

It chronicles Forest’s amazing rise from second division averageness to Kings of Europe and – arguably – the World, between the years of 1977 and 1981.

For me, it was a trip down memory lane, for you, it might just be a very entertaining 90 minutes.

To tempt you, here’s the trailer:

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Another Example Why Marketing Directors At Pram Companies Need To Be Arrested. Or Aborted …
January 28, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Babies, Comment, Corporate Evil, Cunning, Daddyhood, Pretentious Rubbish

Maybe pram advertising has been horrendous for decades.

Maybe I only started noticing it because I recently became a father.

[As you can see here and here]

But whatever the reason … the way they market their products makes me ill.

I’m not saying it’s not effective because, let’s face it, lots and lots of people buy it … but what really fucks me off is that they never talk about the baby, just the contrived lifestyle and status cues it represents.

The latest example of their fucked-up thinking is this …

Yes, it’s supposedly a pram for parents who run.

Except it isn’t is it … because if it was, they’d do more than just create a tricycle, they’d fit it with things a parent who runs would value.

Like a tripometer.

Or a drinks holder.

Or an alliance with someone like NIKE.

Or technology that connects to your smartphone to give you valuable data.

Or something that keeps your kid amused – and safe – while you take them out on the busy streets and roads because life is all about you, isn’t it. You selfish dick.

But they don’t because this pram isn’t really for parents who run, it’s for people who want to convey a lifestyle image that doesn’t include being seen as a good, caring, parent.

I cannot tell you how much I utterly hate how this category conducts itself.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s others who are equally as bad, but there’s something about this industry than feels even dirtier than banks … and that is saying something.

But what gets me is how they seem to think people should have multiple prams to satisfy different needs in their day.

The pram you push when you want to exercise.

The pram you push when you need to ‘off-road’.

The pram you push when you need to attend that fashionable party.

WHO THE FUCK ARE THESE PEOPLE!???

Seriously, if I ever met someone who actually bought multiple prams for lifestyle requirements, I think I’d report them to the authorities … though to be fair, that’s much nicer than what I’d do if I ever met a marketing director at a pram company.



A Reminder Why Apple Are Special …

So Apple has had a lot of stick recently.

A lot of it has come from me.

However recently I was walking through the Shanghai Apple store when I saw this …

Yep, it’s a ‘how to use an iPhone’ class for the elderly.

Brilliant … almost as brilliant as these elderly people wanting to know how to use it.

I know I’ve said in the past how I admire Apple for developing an operating system that is so intuitive, that even babies know how to use it, but I also have to admire them for making sure they pay attention to their users at the other end of the age spectrum.

Of course, part of this is because the ‘younger audience’ segment has been well and truly exploited – but that still doesn’t take away Apple’s desire to help people – all people – get the most out of their product, without dumbing down their brand.

For example, unlike brands like Samsung and LG they never created a ‘smart phone character’ to appeal to kids – they just made their store experience accessible to kids.

Smart. Intelligent. Sophisticated.

The thing I’ve always loved about Apple is that while they want their products to be in as many hands as possible, they’ve never treated their audience like idiots. They appreciate that if you want to be respected, you better act in a way that can be respected.

While that message is obviously deeply ingrained with the product and retail folks, I would say their advertising team need a reminder – because apart from the odd moment of understated niceness [the recent photo billboard stuff for example], they’ve been acting like a total bunch of tossers. [Or, as this guys says, unendingly arrogant]

If it’s not an iPhone, it’s not an iPhone.

The only thing that’s changed is everything.

The funnest iPod ever. [OK, so it’s not for the iPhone, but it’s possible Apple at their shite-est]

Purleeese.

On the bright side, I suppose it shows how powerful making a great product can be, because it sure-as-shit wasn’t the advertising that made people want to go out and buy that stuff.

How about that for an endorsement Baz? Well, if you ignore the ad slag-off.

Surely that qualifies me for a freebie when the iPhone 7 comes out. Ha.



Australia Day. When It’S OK To Be Drunk By 10.27am …
January 26, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Culture

Today is Australia day … a day where all Aussies get to take the day off, get drunk and generally have a mere old time.

In other words, a normal day in ‘straya.

Of course, it’s supposed to celebrate the day the British fleet arrived and raised the flag of Great Britain – not England, Great Britain – way back in 1788.

Given how many Aussies want independence from the Commonwealth, I’d suggest the best strategy for the pro-Monarchists is to say, “if you have independence, you can’t have this day off”, though of course, they’d counter by saying they’d celebrate the day they were officially ‘out on their own’ instead.

Oh well.

I have fond memories of Australia Day … no one celebrates national days off like the Aussies – except maybe the Irish – so to all Australian’s out there [except my wife and my team members – yes, that’s you Paula], enjoy your day but remember Vegemite is still a shit version of Marmite, Tim Tams are a poor mans Penguin and your version of Humpty – from your version of Playschool – looks like a pedophile compared to the sophisticated and stylish version that appeared on UK TV screens.

Told you.

Seriously, what were the people at ABC TV thinking!?

If anything explains why you need to stay in the Commonwealth, it’s that.

Have fun … until tomorrow … when the monotony of reality hits you all over again.



Education Matters …
January 25, 2016, 6:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Context, Culture, Education, Embarrassing Moments

It’s Monday.

You’ve had a good weekend and now you’re back to work.

Same. Same. Same. Same. Same.

Being the kind and generous guy I am, I want to help.

Replace that frown with a smile.

God, I’m so kind.

But the reality is I’m not going to do it … a 10 year old kid is.

What am I going on about?

Read this.

Yes I know it’s not really a laughing matter.

Yes I know teachers were quick – and stupid – to be so hasty.

Yes I know the Police were a bit heavy handed.

Yes I know this is the sort of paranoia the media have gleefully created.

But god, it brought a smile to my face.

And the moral of the story?

Study hard.

Especially if you live in Accrington, Lancashire.

Have a good week.



A Black Friday For Singapore …
January 22, 2016, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

So before I start, I should say a few things.

First is that I love Singapore.

I have many friends from there.

I lived there for 4 happy years.

I got married there.

I am a PR there.

Secondly is that what I am about to post is old, however when has that ever stopped me?

Anyway, way back in 2015, a retailer in Singapore decided to drum up some sales by doing a Black Friday promotion.

Yes, I know Black Friday is a US thing, but retailers are so desperate to take every penny from us that they can, that they’d flog their family if it meant an extra $1 in the till.

So this Singaporean teenage fashion brand decided to do an online promotional campaign.

Given it’s Singapore, the land of tranquil harmony, you’d think it would be fairly innocent wouldn’t you.

Well see if you still feel that way when you see this.

Bad eh.

Oh hang on, are you just looking at the inappropriate pre-pubecent girl simulating an orgasm?

Noooooooo …

Sure, that’s utterly inappropriate but look to the left of that.

Yes, it really says RAPE ME.

WHAT THE FUCK?

A women’s fashion shop has used the statement ‘RAPE ME’.

This from a nation where thousands of people signed a petition to ban Adam Lambert from performing at the New Years Eve party because his homosexual lifestyle sets a bad example to family values.

Of course the brand apologised like a mad man … but I note they also decided to blame it all on a graphic designer, as if that justifies the utter contempt of doing something like this.

We all make mistakes.

We all can say something that someone else may interpret wrongly.

But I am pretty certain there is no situation in history where a fashion retailer could actually think saying RAPE ME is acceptable.

If this was still 2015, I’d think about nominating them for fuck up of the year, but let’s face it … they’d only win second because let’s not forget the Malaysian Airline ex-Marketing Director who discussed the brand benefits of 2 airlines crashing, killing hundreds of innocent lives.

[For the record, 3rd place would go to Mr Publicis for his 7 minute ramble of ridiculous]

Is it any wonder why so many in business – and absolutely everyone in procurement – views anyone in marketing or advertising as a bit of a joke.



Disconnected From Reality …

For reasons that are too boring to go into, I still maintain my Australian mobile number.

It doesn’t cost me much each month and it’s very easy to manage.

I’ve been doing this for over 10 years and there’s never been an issue.

Then last month I saw that Telstra had decided to double my monthly subscription.

They decided to do this without telling me.

I’d certainly not asked for it and I certainly didn’t want it … but they did it all the same.

Sure, it’s not a huge amount, but that’s not the point.

Here is a company that claims to be customer focused, doubling a long-term clients subscription at a whim.

So I wrote to them to find out what was happening and a few days later, I got this.

Yes, that’s an email telling me they don’t have any answers or solutions for me and – this is the kicker – I hope I find that helpful.

No Telstra, I don’t find that useful.

In fact, I find it insulting, patronising and condescending.

To be honest, it’s the I hope that was helpful comment that I find most distasteful.

Getting an email telling me they were looking into my grievance and would be back to me soon, at least let me feel I was being heard – which, as any councillor will tell you, helps create an atmosphere that is more conducive to a positive outcome – but when they added ‘I hope that was helpful’, they ruined any good will because it just reeked of sarcasm and a complete lack of care.

Maybe that wasn’t their intention, but it sure as hell came across that way.

To be fair to Telstra, maybe they did this simply to prepare me for their ‘proper answer’ that arrived by email a few days later.

On the bright side it didn’t include any blatantly disrespectful language.

But then their ‘answer’ did that for them.

Let’s remember this is a situation caused and yet despite that, they tried to position their behaviour an act of consideration, claiming it was a much better plan for my needs DESPITE THE FACT I DON’T MAKE – OR RECEIVE – ANY CALLS ON THAT NUMBER AND NEVER HAVE FOR TEN BLOODY YEARS.

If they really cared about my needs, they should be recommending I cancel my plan, not double down on it.

Why couldn’t they just say they fucked up?

Why couldn’t they have said they were going to put things back to as it was?

Why couldn’t they have just left things alone?

I know why … because they thought they could make a few extra bucks with minimal effort and if they do that to enough people who don’t notice – or think arguing is too much hassle – they can boost their revenues without any effort.

For over a decade I had no beef with Telstra. In one email, they fucked that all up.

Ironically, it’s not because they screwed me over – we all make mistakes – it’s because they then didn’t take responsibility for it.

My attitude towards them has gone from ‘idiots’ to ‘liars’ and my relationship has gone from ‘customer’ to ‘ex-customer’.

I’ve said it many times, that getting someone to buy is relatively easy, but loyalty gets built by how you act after you’ve got the money.

The problem starts when companies view customer service as a rigid, automated and one-size-fits-all process.

I get that you need to have systems in place to manage this sort of thing, but when it delivers solutions tailored to the benefit of the company rather than to the individual, then it’s more of a customer disservice process than something built to develop trust, loyalty and mutual satisfaction.

And that’s where Telstra went wrong, because at no point did they want to help me.

They may claim they wanted to … they may run ads that say they want to … but as the old adage goes, actions speaks louder than words.